Over Easter, I made a trip out to Utah with my 15-week old baby, Steven, to see my extended family. Chris stayed in California to work on his thesis. Traveling alone with a baby was nerve-racking for me, as I am a huge planner and rarely go out of my comfort zone unless I am forced to, but being a new mom, I tend to exit that zone quite often now! After two successful flights there and back, I wanted to offer some tips and tricks that worked for me.
Pack Early – Pack and repack in the week preceding your travel. Both for you and baby. For me, it was helpful to go through my day making a mental checklist of the things I use for Steven. Once I was packed, I went through everything with Chris to ensure I wasn’t forgetting anything.
Carry On Bag – I am not a fan of diaper bags that sling over the shoulder and don’t offer a ton of usable space inside. For me, the best thing to use is a backpack. It offers a lot of space, a lot of pockets (big, medium, small and the smallest pocket in the front of the bag), and it has two straps to throw onto your back for easy carrying. In my carry-on, I was very strategic about what I wanted to carry.
- Travel Diaper Bag – (Medium Pocket) We got ours at Target and it is basically a little fold up changing pad with pockets for diapers and wipes. I was able to pack up 6 diapers, a travel pack of wipes (our favorite are the Kirkland brand from Costco), and an extra outfit for Steven
- Nursing Cover – (Biggest Pocket) The swaddling blankets we use are big, lightweight, and perfect for covering up when nursing (we use the Cuddle Bug Muslin Swaddle Blankets that are 47×47 inches… for the record, most swaddling blankets are much smaller than this)
- Change of Clothes – (Medium Pocket) In a gallon size ziplock bag, I put an extra shirt for me, an extra jammie for Steven, a burp cloth, and a few more diapers
Extras – (Small Pocket) Pacifier, gas drops, and a little toy that I had removed from Steven’s play mat that was small and flat, but that had a little rattle inside to hold his interest (keep in mind, he wasn’t even 4 months old, so it doesn’t take much)
- Mommy Stuff – (Smallest Pocket) Travel stuff: wallet, phone charger, and sunglasses. Easily accessible and only the necessities
- Extra Space – (Biggest Pocket) The last thing I needed to throw into the backpack was the carrier that I was using to transport Steven through the airport so the biggest pocket had only the nursing blanket and lots of extra room to shove the carrier in
Baby Outfit – I know that a lot of the time, people tend to make trips with young babies due to family wanting to meet your new bundle. Because of this, I think it’s only natural to want to dress the baby in a super cute outfit to meet his extended family. Unfortunately, sometimes “cute” translates to lots of pieces that can be misplaced during travel. To make it easy for me, I dressed Steven in one of his “jammie” onesies: one piece, with one zipper and footies, covering him from neck to toes. No lost socks, rogue hoodies, or bunched up pants. Sidenote: I dressed in a comfortable outfit, just a t-shirt and workout pants with pockets so I didn’t have to worry about adjusting or things being too tight or uncomfortable.
Bib aka, The Attached Burp Rag – To go along with the outfit, I put a bib on Steven to travel with. It was one less loose item to fall onto a dirty airport floor. For the record, once I boarded the plane, I had a burp cloth tucked into the side of my backpack carryon to easily access and use during the flight when I was settled and not getting up to move around a ton.
Baby Carrier – I was super lucky and Carly had a car seat waiting in Utah so I didn’t have to use a car seat or stroller. I had Steven in my Ergo baby carrier to get through security and to walk easily through the airport with the ability to use both my hands. The great thing for me is that Steven tends to fall asleep easily when he’s in the carrier and I’m moving, which meant that I was the crazy, rocking, bouncing lady in the security line for 20 minutes, and I was okay with it. When I got to the scanner at security, I was able to walk through with Steven still in the carrier and just get checked on the other side. It was really simple and convenient. On this note: once I was through security and to my gate, I took him out of the carrier and played with him (keeping him awake) until we boarded to give myself the best possibility for a good sleep on the plane.
Diaper Change – For me, it was easier to find an empty corner in an empty gate to lay him (and all my supplies) down on his portable changing pad to get him cleaned up so I didn’t have to deal with people shoving and short-tempered in the airport bathrooms. I changed Steven right before I boarded the plane to ensure he was clean and dry when I sat down and I didn’t have to worry about an emergency change in the tiniest bathrooms known to man on the plane.
Boarding – There are different schools of thought on when to board with baby. Some say to take advantage of early boarding for people traveling with children under 2 and some say wait until the last minute to board to minimize static sitting time with your baby. For me, I wanted to board early to get situated and just keep Steven occupied for the 10 extra minutes until we left the gate and I could start nursing him. It worked because I didn’t feel rushed and I had everything ready to feed, burp, or play with accessible before everyone else boarded.
Here’s the bottom line: flying with a baby takes a lot more of a lot of things. More time, more patience, more “stuff”. But taking the time to plan for the worst and hope for the best was extremely helpful for me. It turned out, once I started feeding Steven, he slept the whole flight out to Salt Lake and most of the flight back which made it really simple. It’s okay to stress about it. That just means that you care about things going well and there’s nothing wrong with that.